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Researchers Honored for Transferring Technology

By Kathryn Barry Stelljes
May 1, 2001

BURLINGTON, Vt., May 1--Nine scientists from Agricultural Research Service laboratories in California, Georgia, Maryland, Mississippi and Washington today will receive 2001 Awards for Excellence in Technology Transfer from the Federal Laboratory Consortium, meeting here this week.

The FLC is honoring 112 individuals with this award at its annual meeting. The winners come from 21 laboratories in seven federal agencies. The consortium, a network of more than 700 federal research laboratories, helps move technologies from these labs into the marketplace.

“ARS researchers have contributed technologies with wide-ranging applications, from improved soybeans and bermudagrass, to programs for analyzing and reducing environmental contaminants, to biologically based pest management tools," said Floyd P. Horn. Based in Washington, D.C., Horn is administrator of ARS, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.

Award winner Allen Cohen, an ARS entomologist working at Mississippi State, Miss., developed an artificial diet for mass production of beneficial insects. These insects act as predators or parasites of insects that harm agricultural crops. Cohen’s work reduced the cost of the feed for raising beneficial insects from $300 to $1,500 per kilogram to less than $2 per kilogram.

ARS geneticist Perry B. Cregan at Beltsville, Md., developed more than 600 genetic markers and associated chromosomal maps for soybeans. His was the first laboratory in the world to demonstrate that these specific types of markers, known as simple sequence repeat DNA markers, could be used to identify genes of interest in plants. The technique allows the USDA’s Plant Variety Protection Office to ensure that protected varieties are genetically unique.

ARS geneticist Wayne Hanna at Tifton, Ga., developed TifEagle and TifSport, two new patented turfgrass varieties with improved resistance to cool temperatures and to mole cricket damage. Last year, at least 50 percent of all new and renovated golf course greens in the United States that use bermudagrass chose TifEagle. The new turfgrasses require less pesticides and water than those typically used for golf courses and recreational fields in the southern United States, while providing the superior surfaces necessary for golf and other sports.

ARS entomologist Peter J. Landolt of Wapato, Wash., developed new lures to attract insects. One of the lures attracts several species of pestiferous wasps and yellowjackets, representing the first effective lure for German yellowjackets and European paper wasps. Another lure attracts several moth pests of agricultural crops. The lures rely on sugars and other natural compounds, and will allow private companies to develop control measures such as attract-and-kill traps that use only minimal amounts of pesticides.

ARS agricultural engineer Bailey Mitchell of Athens, Ga., designed an electrostatic space charge system that removes dust and microorganisms from the air of poultry- producing facilities. The system was shown to be more than 95 percent effective in laboratory and field tests. The air-cleaning system will make poultry products safer by reducing the amount of harmful microbes like Salmonella that can get transferred from the poultry house to the meat.

ARS chemists Attila E. Pavlath, Dominic W.S. Wong and Wayne Camirand (retired) of the agency’s Western Regional Research Center at Albany, Calif., developed edible films that have led to new products in diverse arenas. Pavlath is also currently serving as the president of the American Chemical Society.

The first film, a calcium-based coating, keeps cut apples, pears and other lightly processed produce fresh for up to 28 days in appropriate packaging. The produce coating--now developed by a private company into a commercial dip--has helped increase the use of cut fruit in school lunch programs and salad bars. The second film provides a protective coating for cows’ udders. The spray-on coating, also successfully commercialized by a private company, protects the cows from contracting mastitis-causing bacteria.

ARS soil scientist Martinus T. van Genuchten of Riverside, Calif., led the creation of a state-of-the-art Windows-based computer software package called HYDRUS. This program allows users to study and predict how water and dissolved chemicals move in soils and groundwater. More than 5,500 copies of the software have been distributed. The user-friendly computer program has been widely adopted worldwide as a tool for improving water quality, reducing agricultural chemical runoff and managing municipal waste.

“Several large and small companies have licensed ARS patents stemming from the work of these award winners. Their research exemplifies the main goal of the Federal Laboratory Consortium--that is, to help federal agencies move research from the laboratory to the consumer,” Horn said.

The FLC also announced that it has selected John P. Jordan of ARS as Laboratory Director of the Year for 2000. Dr. Jordan is director of the ARS Southern Regional Research Center in New Orleans, La. He was cited for numerous contributions to technology transfer as director of SRRC.

Contact: Kathryn Barry Stelljes, ARS Information Staff, phone (510) 559-6069, fax (510) 559-5882,